There were pots of gold in the Marriott Ballroom Saturday night: they were bathing in the light of a human rainbow gathered for food, fun, and fellowship under an emerging banner.
Welcome to the New Community, the face of the church of the 21st century.
And this community will continue to grow and become more visible after Convention adjourns, as racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity continues to expand in parishes and dioceses.
Saturday night, this preview — presented by bishops of Chicago, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Michigan, Southern Ohio, and Southeast Florida, among others; by the Ethnic Congregational Development Office; and by the Eighth Province — Intercultural Ministry Development — had everyone dancing the Electric Slide.
“As I look around, it looks like a mosaic of beautiful people,” exclaimed Juanita Betz-Peterson from the Diocese of Lexington (Ky.).
Deep red walls hung with bright-colored woven cloth framed party-goers in everything from casual to trendy to traditional dress, including dashikis, caftans, and guayabera shirts. There was clerical attire, as well.
Arthur Williams, retired bishop from Ohio, since January interim director of ethnic clergy development in New York, was an organizer of the New Community event. Pleased by the turn-out, he and his wife, Lynette, watched the party unfold.
“The work is to celebrate diversity in the Episcopal Church. To bring resources together so that more people can move into the center of the church,” Williams said.
Children scampered about, old friends hugged, and, in one corner, guests pushed tables and chairs together to accommodate several dozen guests.
Beverly Scipio, a deputy from Ohio, commented: “The time has come when people from every nation and tongue can sit at the table of brotherhood and truly reflect the kingdom of God without shame or apology.”
Food and music were effective ice-breakers. The buffet featured a global array of hors d’oeuvres. Vernon Tinsley had programmed an evening of live music — reggae, jazz, third world, gospel, pop, and gentle funk.
At one point the dance floor resembled the multicultural Church of the Electric Slide, with dozens of smiling people in all skin and hair colors united in the lively line dance.
“It’s beautiful to me to see the groups here,” said Helen Batts, a deputy from West Tennessee. “I didn’t know what to expect. This reminds me of a beautiful bouquet.”